Marine Le Pen on the Farming Crisis in France

In the following video Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front National in France, discusses the most recent in a wave of suicides among farmers and agricultural workers.

This video makes it clear that Ms. Le Pen, like other French politicians, is a syndicalist rather than a proponent of free markets. She doesn’t want the government to stop interfering with agriculture; she wants it to practice the correct kind of interference — policies that benefit farmers as well as consumers. She is, in effect, demanding that the state resume its traditional duties vis-à-vis the farmers and the peasants.

It’s a reminder that there is no free market in French agriculture, and probably never has been. Liberté does not mean the freedom to cultivate whatever you want and sell it to whomever you want at the highest price the market will bear. Farming is a government-managed enterprise, and Marine Le Pen is calling for it to be managed properly, for the benefit of those French citizens who toil diligently to produce food.

Many thanks to Ava Lon for the translation, and to Vlad Tepes for the subtitling:

Ava Lon has also translated a series of related articles. First, from the Europe 1 radio network:

Côtes-d’Armor: a farmer found hanged in her milking parlor

February 24, 2017

[banner in the picture: We are feeding you, but we ourselves are starving.]

As the Salon de l’Agriculture opens in Paris on Saturday, a milk producer, the mother of two children, killed herself on Friday in the Côtes-d’Armor.

A milk producer from Côtes-d’Armor, who was weathering the milk crisis very badly, was found hanged in her milking parlor, it was learned Friday at the gendarmerie, while in Paris the Agricultural Salon is opening.

A mother of two

“A 47-year-old woman, a mother of two children, who produced milk with her husband and a partner in a GAEC (Agricultural Grouping of Joint Exploitation) in Plumieux, Côtes-d’Armor, was found by the latter hanged from a beam Thursday at 7:00 am,” said the gendarmerie of Côtes-d’Armor. “In financial difficulties, she left a message saying she was sorry but could not stand the situation anymore,” said the duty officer. “According to her husband, she was tired of having to work a lot and just barely succeed in paying the bills,” he added.

Income down 26.1% last year

According to INSEE [National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies] figures published in December, the average income of a farm manager decreased by 26.1% in 2016 compared to 2015. The most affected sectors are the production of cereals and the production of milk, which suffered from full European competition after the abandonment of European milk quotas in 2015.

From Le Parisien:

Milk crisis: Breton farmer hangs herself in milking parlor

A few hours after the opening in Paris of the Salon of Agriculture, a farmer committed suicide in her farm.

A milk producer from Côtes-d’Armor, who was weathering the milk crisis very badly, was found hanged Thursday in her milking parlor Friday near the gendarmerie.

Céline, “a 47-year-old mother of two children, who produced milk with her husband and a partner in a GAEC, in Plumieux (Côtes-d’Armor), was Found by the latter hanged to a beam Thursday at 07:00, “said the gendarmerie of Côtes-d’Armor. “In financial difficulties, she left a message saying she was sorry but could not stand the situation anymore,” said the duty officer. “According to her husband, she was tired of having to work a lot and just barely succeed in paying the bills,” he added.

According to their neighbor, Sébastien, the choice of committing suicide in the milking parlor is no coincidence. “It’s the workplace. We are there twice a day for three or four hours, that’s where the milk arrives and… we say that it’s not paid,” confides this milk producer to France Bleu Armorique.

Replacement of the victim already arrived

According to INSEE [National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies] figures published in December, the average income of a farm manager decreased by 26.1% in 2016 compared to 2015. The most affected sectors are the production of cereals and the production of milk, which suffered from full European competition after the abandonment of European milk quotas in 2015.

According to France Bleu Armorique, a replacement arrived on Thursday for Celine’s operation: the farm cannot afford to suspend production. Even with the death of its boss.

Finally, another one from the Europe 1 radio network, reporting on a farmers’ demonstration back in January:

“Death is in the meadow”: against a backdrop of suicides, farmers demonstrate in Agen

January 23, 2017

[the banners in the picture: “death is in the meadow” and “no country without farmers”]

[photo caption: A hundred farmers demonstrated Monday in Agen to alert the authorities on the difficulties encountered by their profession, which result in hundreds of suicides from their colleagues every year]

732 farmers committed suicide last year according to the Mutualité sociale agricole. An unbearable figure for the farmers who decided to meet Monday in Agen.

We feed you, but we die”: a hundred farmers demonstrated Monday in Agen to alert the public authorities to the difficulties encountered by their profession, which according to them translate into hundreds of suicides of their colleagues every year, as reported by an AFP correspondent.

“Out of strength”

“Death is in the meadow”, “Out of strength”, one could read on banners attached to a dozen tractors. After marching through the streets of the city, demonstrators went to the prefecture, the Social Mutualité agricole (MSA) and the headquarters of the socialist MP Lucette Lousteau, pouring manure every time to mark their dissatisfaction. They also hung tens of crucifixes symbolizing their suicidal colleagues at the prefecture gates, before a delegation was received by the prefect of Lot-et-Garonne, Patricia Willard.

The demonstration was organized spontaneously by several farmers from the canton of Puymirol, in reaction to the recent suicide of one of their own. “This suicide was an electric shock; we decided to act; it cannot go on. Many farmers think about suicide. The other day, a father came to see me in tears. He can no longer feed his family,” summed up one of the organizers, Jean-Baptiste Lodetti, 22 years old.

732 farmers’ suicides in 2016

All of the agricultural unions in the department responded to the call, but refrained from deploying banners or signs of belonging. “The peasant community is suffering, but doesn’t talk about this suffering… Last year, according to the MSA, 732 farmers committed suicide; the average income of a farmer is 638 euros. There are no prospects,” deplored Christian Crouzet, the spokesman for the Peasant Confederation. As for Michael, 32 years old, cereal grower and breeder, he “doesn’t see the light at end of the tunnel.” “My wife is also working outside. Ten years ago, I thought that suicide was an act of cowardice, but now I realize that some are in such difficulties that they see no other solution.”

Video transcript:

05:30   We are now going to tackle regional questions, and we’ll start with agriculture:
05:34   A week ago a woman farmer in Côtes d’Armor [Brittany] committed suicide in the milking room.
05:38   She was a 47-year-old dairy farmer, mother of two children. The suicides
05:42   are multiplying. They tripled in 2016. How are you planning
05:47   to solve this problem of the distress of the farmers? — This distress,
05:51   let me tell you first of all, that it is gut-wrenching.
05:55   Voilà. I think… to all the French people. A thousand suicides in five years! It’s absolutely huge.
05:59   This means that some proportion of farmers don’t believe
06:03   in politics anymore. Politics must regain control
06:07   of financial markets, must regain control of
06:11   Finance; it must regain control of everything in the European Union,
06:15   which in fact decided, as part of its plans, to make French agriculture vanish.
06:19   And to make vanish, more specifically, the French agricultural model,
06:23   which was founded on the model of family farming.
06:27   So we need to immediately introduce a series of measures.
06:31   I’m proposing three immediate measures that will have concrete results.
06:35   The first one is economic patriotism. Communities in our territory have to order French products
06:43   no matter what. It’s unheard of to see that
06:47   50% of beef that served in our cafeterias, and so on,
06:51   is still imported beef. Second: we need to implement measures
06:55   To ensure that farmers have a decent income. That’s what they are calling for, because
06:59   I would like to remind you of the numbers of the MSA [social security for farmers] — half of farmers,
07:03   HALF of farmers, live on less than €350 a month [$370] —So what are you going to do?
07:07   Will you subsidize it? —I’m sorry, but is there any profession that would accept that? If tomorrow
07:11   half the journalists had to live on less than €350 a month, do you think it would go unremarked?
07:15   So we have to put conditions in place that so commercial relations are negotiated in advance,
07:23   by three parties: producers, processors, distributors,
07:27   with transparency guaranteed by the government. A stop
07:31   has to be put to the great distribution
07:35   getting a greater and greater gross margin, when the producers
07:39   are forced to sell almost without gain. — And the third measure? — Finally,
07:43   we need to “Frankify” subsidies. When I say “Frankify” grants, it means that we are paying
07:47   20 billion to the EU, and you know what I think of the EU. I think that it
07:52   has had solely catastrophic consequences… — There the question is, of course…
07:56   unblocking. Unblocking our exports, if we
08:00   renounce PAC [common agricultural policy], are we still going to be able
08:04   to sell our products to our European neighbors? — But, how were we doing it
08:08   before? We were doing better business before the European Union!
08:12   Before the EU our commercial balance was
08:16   in surplus. Today, except for wine, it generates a deficit.
08:20   So it’s not true that the EU was for us an opportunity to export.
08:24   It doesn’t let us export, and I will partially tell you why: it’s because of the level
08:28   of the currency, which makes our products barely competitive.
08:32   —If we stay in the agricultural domain, Mme Le Pen, I’m sorry, but you invoke the amount paid
08:36   by France to the EU, which truly is an important amount, but France is receiving
08:40   as well: French agriculture is the first to
08:44   benefit from EU subsidies. Nine billion planned for 2017.
08:48   If you cut off this help, if you suppress the PAC [farmers’ pensions] , which is your wish,
08:52   what do you imagine for the future? —But I’m not suppressing the PAC. At some point you have to
08:56   show common sense! We pay 20 billion;
09:00   or even 21 billion, almost, we get back 13 billion. PAC included.
09:04   Well. We get back our 20 billion and we keep the grants
09:08   of course, or even increase it a little, for agriculture.
09:12   However, we change criteria, because once France is the one that grants those subsidies,
09:16   we are the ones to decide about the criteria. And we are going to stop this nonsensical help,
09:20   where EU finances the farmed land and not the farmer. Voilà. And I think
09:24   that it’s a mistake. And I think that we need to be based on and lean on the trade associations,
09:28   because I think that those associations are the most capable of determining
09:32   the needs of the industry, how not to destabilize
09:36   the industry: which is the case with the grants allocated nowadays, at least in the way
09:40   they are given, by the technocrats in Brussels.

20 thoughts on “Marine Le Pen on the Farming Crisis in France

  1. What’s a syndicalist? I am all for supporting the peasants. I am not sure exactly how it needs to be done, but the globalist capitalist prescription of cranking out food where ever it’s cheapest, pricing it according to what the market will bear, and so on, does not work for farming. What is a good thing for, say, gadgets, and brings the price down, is a disaster for farmers — they overproduce, the price goes down, and they can’t make a living. Catch 22.

    I have been running around the web for years asking how this needs to be fixed. To no avail. My grandfather was for real coops — the kind where all the profits are divided among the farmers who belong to it, after the managers are paid their wage. In other words, real coops where the farmers own it, not the state, and not some corporation. He ran a very successful one. And the American populists at the end of the 19th century felt the same, and ran many such coops quite successfully. (What did them in was IMHO their betting on politics in the end.)

    • My introduction was descriptive, not normative. Europe is different from the USA, and requires some explaining.

      Syndicalism is the merging of the state and large private enterprises. The enterprises remain in private hands, but are highly regulated and subsidized by the state, which thereby has a big say in commercial practices.

      Mussolini’s Italy is the classic syndicalist state.

        • Softer power. Oligarchy instead of dictatorship. Some input from elected representatives.

          France has always been like that, as far as I know.

          • Yeah, sounds right. Some would argue that the whole west is like that… that fascism was not defeated, it morphed into “soft fascism” after Hitler mucked it all up.

            Anybody have pointers on sane agrarian policies that actually support small farmers?

    • I believe tariffs should be introduced to protect the farmer from the cheap imports which are assisting in bringing down the farmer’s profit that he needs to re-invest in his property, machinery and to cover other expenses.

      You will get much argument from ‘economists’ who believe that protectionism does not work, but if you look back over the West when the West maintained tariffs against cheap imports we had none of the problems that are so apparent today under so called ‘free trade agreements.’

      Cheap imports in the form of fresh meat and meat products, fresh fruit and vegetables, canned and dried goods, and even seeds, are cutting the farmer (and this is happening throughout the West) in all Western countries out of the landscape. While cheap food is desirable by the consumer, what happens to a country that has lost its means of producing what used to be cheap and plentiful food for the whole population when the cheap imports become less and less reliable?

      Then add the turning of the thumb screws on those farmers who have managed to survive that deliberate Globalist plan by chain supermarkets who will only buy – and this is regardless of the natural and adverse conditions the farmer has to battle every year of him being on the land – at a certain price to maximize their own profits and the effect that the waiting Banks, salivating at foreclosing on the farmer who can’t make that next payment has on the farmer, then you have the conditions that are causing so many farmers to take their own lives.

      Who’d be a farmer today?

      • I know lots of people who are. I wish I was. I love the peasant life. But the only way to prosper as a small farmer is the way the Amish do it — feeding the family first and foremost. The old fashioned farmstead. And a community that helps one another, and keeps out of debt.

        I too think that some sort of protectionism is necessary for farming. But not the way it’s done now, handouts for the big guys. Well, the Farm Bill will come up in ’18, I think. It would be nice if Trump had some real ideas in that department.

  2. we’re just a few decades away from the extinction of the mammoth, so I see little point in sitting around the camp fire and discussion the philosophical ideas of the best way to organize mammoth hunter society. Our current economic system is the mammoth and we can see the end from where we currently stand. Soon Marx, Hayek and all their lesser brethren will be as pointless as the philosophers of long past mammoth hunting societies.

  3. Supermarkets are the problem. They ruthlessly exploit their suppliers. They don’t care if they drive them to suicide but they will care if all the suppliers go out of business. State intervention is necessary in such a market.

    • The profit margin of grocery stores in the US is tiny. Thus, much attention must be focus on controlling costs.

      The Walmart model is what I think you are describing. Relentless pressure on suppliers and shippers.

  4. Continental Europe is collectivist in outlook. Whereas England had always been outward looking. The USA inherited that trait and thrived on it. That’s why continental Europe hates us. We’re not like them; they are elitist in outlook and we are egalitarian; for example, both the USA and England thought the motor car should be affordable for most people. Continental Europe thought they should only be owned by the elite – perhaps until the 1930s and 1940s with the Citroen 2cv and the German vw. The great rift, I believe was when King Henry VIII broke with Rome. We became our own masters and both the Catholic church and their slave countries hated us for this. For the best part of 500 years they’ve been trying to bring us back into the fold and the EU, with the connivance of the Roman Catholic church has been plotting to make this happen.
    The English speaking world is exceptional and we should not forget that. We are not collectivist in outlook and if we want to prosper for another 500 years we cannot afford to let the collectivist nations subdue us.

    • john in cheshire,

      The British were eager to join those ‘collectivist’ Europeans in the 70s, dumping the Commonwealth in the process. The Brexit margin was rather small, wasn’t it? So about half the UK population was happy with collectivism.

      • Socialism took hold in Britain in the ’20s and ’30s and with a vengeance after the war. It was hugely destructive of the British spirit, as it is everywhere. Socialism is premised on legislative theft so it’s clear it’s a radical departure from the spirit John in Cheshire describes.

        I don’t see Bremain as a vote for collectivism but perhaps you are closer to the reality on the ground.

  5. French Agriculture is more a heritage issue than an economic issue. Protected for decades under the EU Common Agricultural Policy it is hopelessly inefficient and can only survive with taxpayer subsidies. In few other countries a dairy farmer with 15 or 20 cows could not make a viable living. But they are a powerful voting bloc and there lies their influence as well as the romantic notion the French have for the rural areas.

  6. I don’t necessarily think she is wrong in the role of the French government in agriculture; just as it is a necessary function of government to protect its citizens against the use of force by other governments, so it is also necessary to protect them against the predations of corporate power and unfair trade practices originating from beyond their borders. What good is it to have cheap produce from heavily subsidized foreign producers when it puts local farms and workers out of business and out of the economic life of France?

    As always, one must ask “cui bono”…

  7. I agree this is a heritage issue and I do believe it is worthy of being protected.

    20 years ago, when living in Switzerland we used to cross the border with France and grocery shopping over there. We used to find the quality of food better in France, especially pork and milk, and don’t get me started on bread and cheese and deli… Not even mentioning the wine (which is pretty safe from trouble, btw)! You cannot simply replace regional products with their long history tightly related to the geography, climate, soil, local plants and animals (that’s why French call it terroir, a word that means the land and all of the above, which is typical for the particular region)with some cheaper ones!

    You cannot replace them because they tell French history, French taste and a soul, and it cannot be substituted by some other products, just like the Mona Lisa cannot be substituted by a “Portrait of a Middle Aged Lady with Shaved Eyebrows”.

    • ‘Heritage’ seems more like an excuse to protect inefficient farmers at taxpayers’ expense. Let the market decide which products consumers prefer.

      • Efficiency works with nails and telephones. And cheap “crap food.” If you want *quality* food, you gotta think differently. I grew up with good food in central Europe. Then I came to America and saw what “let the market decide” had wreaked here.

        • Agreed.

          A race to the bottom benefits no one except the mega-farms with the deep pockets to buy the equipment needed to profit from economies of scale. A visit to an industrial feedlot would dissuade anyone from the notion that bigger and more efficient are always better…

    • Ava,

      Thanks for the translation.

      I also think you wrote one of the most important articles published by GoV:

      You showed the importance of homogeneous, supportive communities for child-bearing, child-rearing decisions. In other words, diverse communities are death on producing nurtured children because all the burden goes on the parents to not only tend the children, but to pass on their culture and knowledge.

      As far as agricultural tariffs and the price of food, it is important to note that the small farmer of the Roman Republic was devastated by continually decreasing prices. The small farmer fell into debt, and was enslaved by the horrific laws of indebtedness. In fact, it was the widespread enslavement of the farmer class that led to the system of serfdom.

      The small farmer formed the backbone of the Roman army, so the ruin of the small farmer required the use of mercenary troops and the notoriously capricious and unstable governments of the Roman Empire.

      As I have pointed out, the economic model of the free market assumes the lowest unit price for commodity goods as the object of analysis. The lowest price is not, however, an objective of government. The objective of government is the happiness and well-being of its citizens, which is a totally different focus.

      Tariffs as a tool to maintain the quality of life in a country is perfectly legitimate, although it may result in higher unit prices. But quality-of-life is as important, or more important, than the best dollar commodity value. A certain amount of competition is healthy, and so is international trade. So, there is plenty of room for debate and maneuver. But, the emphasis on nationalism and maintaining the existence and well-being of the small farmer class is a very good feature.

      Of course, farmers themselves may have issues. Farmers in the US tend to favor migrant labor, because that lowers their worker prices. And if France doesn’t get immigration under control (stopped altogether) and its dependence on EU bureaucrats eliminated, France as a culture will be threatened anyway.

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